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Chesterton and dated notions of the dead/live
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I took to reading some Father Brown short stories after Maou's mention of The Man Who Was Thursday, and one thing I quite liked was the stark contrast in style of his mystery stories versus the mysteries of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or the style of noir. Chesterton's writing is more floral and effusive, and the conceit of a priest who is versed in criminals and crime as a result of a life in the confession booth is quite brilliant. The stories themselves are quite short individually, so they make for a good bite-size piece of entertainment. All that said, and as much as I admire the quality of Chesterton's writing, he's got a number of strong notions about non-Christian religion which are expressed both by Father Brown (which would be ok, since he is a Christian priest, after all!), but also by the narrator. One chapter basically dishes out that the art and artifacts of the East are full of wickedness and menace, and given the entirely unironic tone he takes, makes me feel somewhere between "I'm sorry for your ignorance" and "well, I got this book from the Gutenberg Project so it's not like I'm paying you any money". That Chesterton was born over a hundred years ago in the culture, norms, and knowledge of that era and with the limited contact with other cultures of that time make it more understandable, and that Father Brown isn't so much a bunch of moral stories as they are apologetics is interesting. The quality of his writing is incontrovertible, even if its content occasionally comes across as the rantings of grandparents whose statement you attempt to defuse before they cause too much chaos. I do think I get value out of reading popular fiction from other eras, simply because the idea of Indians or other people of Eastern cultures being thought of as dubious and untrustworthy is alien to me due to the fortune of my upbringing in a metropolitan area. Books being books that I read for fun, I can also put it down at any time, so I don't suffer the great complication that students do of "why are we being made to study the work of people that today we would ourselves be attempting to educate". What do you think, folks of the Cafe?
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